Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Tuesday, 4 December 2012

MPs block attempt to scrap Human Rights Act

MPs have voted resoundingly against a bid by Conservative MP Richard Bacon to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Mr Bacon introduced his Human Rights Act 1998 (Repeal) Bill to the Commons under the ten minute rule on 4 December 2012, arguing that the act had been used as a vehicle for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to influence and change British law.

This was "fundamentally undemocratic", he complained.

"Judges do not have access to a tablet of stone not available to the rest of us that allow them better to discern what our people need than we can possibly do as their elected, fallible, corrigible representatives."

Mr Bacon concluded: "In the end, questions of major social policy - whether on abortion, or capital punishment, or the right to bear firearms, or workers' rights - should be decided by elected representatives, and not by unelected judges."

But Labour MP Thomas Docherty argued that the Conservative MP had misunderstood the legal impact of the act.

Ultimately, the European court had jurisdiction in the UK, not because of the Human Rights Act, but because of the UK's membership of the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.

Repealing the act would therefore not achieve Mr Bacon's aims, the Labour MP concluded.

But he also defended the act in its own right, describing it as one of Labour's most important reforms during 13 years in government, guaranteeing fundamental rights to British citizens - including the right to life and a prohibition on torture.

"The strongest argument against repeal is this is the decade in which we hope to welcome more countries, particularly our neighbours to the east of Europe and Asia and to the south of Europe, into the families of democratic, civilised nations," he said.

"How can we ask developing countries, the new democracies, to respect human rights when we seek to remove them from our statute book?"

MPs voted against Mr Bacon's bill at first reading by 195 to 72, a majority of 123, so it will make no further parliamentary progress.

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